Douglas County School Board votes to lower passing scores |

Douglas County School Board votes to lower passing scores

Jill Darby

Next year’s Douglas County high school seniors can graduate with slightly lower scores than originally planned.

In a 4-2 decision, the Board of Trustees voted Tuesday to lower passing scores in language and science competencies given to the classes of 2002 and 2003.

The passing score in science was lowered from 217 to 213, the seventh-grade 50th percentile. The language competency cutoff was dropped one point, from 224 to 223, which is the 50th percentile at the eighth-grade level.

In order to graduate, Douglas County School District students must meet educational standards which span beyond state requirements. Students must prove basic knowledge in reading, writing, listening, speaking, foreign language, math, science, social science and technology.

Beginning in third grade, students take Achievement Level Tests, assessments based on communications and mathematics curriculum taught in Douglas County.

Each time students take a level test, they receive a score indicating a current learning level, or a level of content difficulty for which they have been successful.

Not all students take the same exam. Students are tested to measure individual growth.

Curriculum Coordinator Cris Etchegoyhen said the district’s intent is not to lower curriculum standards, but rather to establish tests which reflect material taught to the class of 2002.

A ninth-grade course was developed last year to provide a foundation in earth, life and physical sciences. The foundation class was not in existence when members of the class of 2002 were freshman.

“The bottom line is the class of 2002 didn’t have the chance to take this class,” Etchegoyhen said. “The purpose in adjusting the cut score on the ALT is to recognize these kids were further along in our system when the curriculum changes were made. They hadn’t received the overall instruction compared to the kids who are going through now.”

Since the competency-based system was established in 1999, students graduating in 2002 and 2003 were in 10th and ninth grade at the time the standards were implemented, therefore missing out on curriculum aligned with the competencies in lower grades.

“Basically, what we were feeling was as science competencies were being put into place, the class of 2002 would have taken the science for the first time as 10th-graders, so they really haven’t had as much an opportunity to learn all they needed to learn in order to do their best on the assessment,” said Janice Florey, district director of special services and assessment. “I would say that for the class of 2003 as well.”

Etchegoyhen said the district hopes to restore cutoff scores on competencies once the class of 2003 graduates.

“Right now with the class of 2004, the plan is to hold them accountable for the original target,” she said. “There are long-term goals that over time we’ll be able to continue to increase those target scores. We’re not saying we’re lowering our standards. We’re saying this is appropriate given these kids were given three years in the competency system, rather than six or 13.”

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